Thursday, June 24, 2010

Book Review

John McWhorter has a nice review of my book in The New Republic. A highlight:
Buck’s terrific book is longer on analysis than prescription; but its analysis comprises such invaluable history, and so deftly counters any fears underlying the pretense that the “acting white” charge is fictitious, that I cannot imagine we will soon see another book so utterly necessary on what used to be called the Race Question. Buck has cleared the ground of many illusions and innuendos, and this can only help us to get closer to a solution for the vast problem that still remains.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Home Computers Hurt Students

Helen Ladd and Jacob Vigdor have a new CALDER Center/NBER working paper looking at how home computers and broadband access help students. (Interestingly, an earlier version of the same paper listed Charles Clotfelter as a third author.)

Turns out that home computers harm students:
Do students' basic academic skills improve when they have access to a computer at home? Has the introduction of high‐speed internet access, which expands the set of productive tasks for which home computers might be used, caused further improvements? This paper addresses these questions by studying administrative data covering the population of North Carolina public school students between 2000 and 2005, a period when home computer access expanded noticeably, and the availability of home high‐speed internet rose dramatically.

. . .

Models with student fixed effects, which restrict identification to within‐student variation, by contrast, show modest but statistically significant negative impacts. In these models, we can trace the impact of home computer introduction for periods of up to three years; there is no indication that the negative effect of access diminishes over this time period. . . .

Similarly, the introduction of high‐speed internet service is associated with significantly lower math and reading test scores in the middle grades. Moreover, student fixed‐effect specifications reveal that increased availability of high speed internet is associated with less frequent self‐reported computer use for homework. On the margin, then, access to broadband internet appears to crowd out studying effort, presumably by introducing new options for recreational use by students and other family members. In addition, we find that the introduction of broadband internet is associated with widening racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Lars Katz

So I was listening to Lars Katz' song "The Pawn" in the car today, and the following conversation ensued:

Helena (5): "Is that guy dead?"

Me, somewhat hesitantly: "No." [Note: I later realized that since I often play classical music or old big band music in the car, there have been previous conversations like this: "Can I meet that guy?" "No, he died a long time ago."]

Helena: "Will he be dead when I grow up?"

Me: "No, why?"

Helena: "Because I want to marry him."

Me: "Really, why?"

Helena: "Because he sings good. I won't marry anyone else."

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dennis Prager show and an email

I appeared on the Dennis Prager radio show the other day to talk about the new book out from Yale University Press. The interview was congenial, and I thought it went well.

Afterwards, I received this interesting email from a listener:
Mr. Buck,

Your appearance on the Dennis Prager show was an epiphany for me. I am a white female who taught in the all black high school in Petersburg, Virginia in 1969-1970. The schools were under court-ordered desegregation, but it was not implemented until the next year. I was amazed at the high skill level of the students I taught, since they had all come up through what most of us considered to be an "inferior" segregated system. I have often wondered how the enthusiasm for learning and the intelligence of the students I taught devolved into "acting white." Since I was in favor of the greater good of integrating the schools, I never thought to question the methods being used to do so. You have supplied an important piece of information. Thank you.

My students were being forced to integrate the year after I taught them. Many of them were angry about it---so angry that I took a class period to allow them to vent. One female student kept looking apologetically at me and saying, "I don't mean any disrespect to you but . . . .", and then she would launch into an angry, profanity filled diatribe about her distaste of being forced to go to school with whites.

Now I teach high school in South Central, Los Angeles. My black students for the most part are unmotivated and uninterested in school, performing well below their Latino classmates, many of whose original language is not English. I had one very promising black student in my Advanced Placement United States History class several years ago, and he was shunned by his classmates, both black and Latino, because they said he "wasn't black." He was an outsider through four years of high school.

Memories of Christian, another male black student still haunt me. He had loving and supportive parents, who came by school the first week just to get acquainted with his teachers and tell them they were very involved in Christian's education. Their commitment showed. Christian was a well-behaved young man with skills far superior to his classmates. He read at a 12th grade level (in the 10th grade) and was an excellent writer. He was in an academically enriched program Los Angeles Unified runs with the University of Southern California which would have guaranteed him a four year scholarship to U.S.C. if he had kept up his grades and done well on the SATs. Yet, within the two years I had him, I saw Christian degenerate into a "gangsta wannabe" whose main purpose in life was to emulate his unmotivated and unskilled black male classmates. His parents were horrified and did everything within their power to stop his decline, but the allure of "acting black" was no match for loving parents who lacked the funds to send their son to private school.

Again, thank you for your illuminating study. I have ordered your book and look forward to reading it.


Saturday, June 05, 2010

Media Coverage for the Book

The Fordham Institute's review of the new book is here, and an EdWeek blog covers the book here.

Education blogger extraordinaire Joanne Jacobs writes about the new book here, while Phil of Brandywine Books posts about it here.

My good friend Rod Dreher of the Templeton Foundation had a three-part interview with me here, here, and here.